Book Review: Galapagos, by Kurt Vonnegut

galapagos_coverThere is an archipelago, six hundred miles from the western coast of South America, isolated from the rest of the world. For some, this remote location is a destination sought in the pursuit of relaxation, others engaged in the hunt of research. Yet most uniquely, this island chain is the focus for a novel written by one of the 20TH century’s greatest authors.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Galápagos, his eleventh elongated tale, remains a true example of his characteristic cynicism and caustic humor which have long attracted a devoted audience, including myself. At a rather superficial level, Galápagos is extremely humorous for those with an attraction to keen wit. Yet upon delving further into the text, one comes to grips with the more profound revelations Vonnegut has to offer. At its deepest level, Vonnegut prophesizes, criticizing the society celebrity-worshipping cult of “big-brained” buffoons that he observes. This is where Darwin comes into play; Vonnegut incorporates evolutionary ideas to suggest that our noggins have outgrown their necessity, and have driven us into despair. And so, as our author predicts, we shall regress to the animalistic state of furry ocean-dwellers.

Vonnegut’s scattered scenes mimic the geography of the story’s setting, and while occasionally disorienting, they lead to a comprehensive narrative regarding the tale of the crew of the fictional Bahía de Darwin who take on a sort of Noah’s Ark as the survivors of the human race. Stranded on the island of Santa Rosalia, the outcasts ultimately are the ancestors of a new species that inhabit earth, which Vonnegut continuously visits a few thousand years in the future. In this way, the only true antagonist of the story, the brain, is victorious.

While not a challenging read, Galápagos is advanced in its writing and revelations, but should be intriguing to any curious teen. There is no doubt that Vonnegut sparks some compelling questions: What is our relationship to the rest of creation? Are the fittest really the ones who survive? Have our brains become the enemy? Surely the author has his own opinions and predictions, but we are not necessarily compelled to agree. Rather, Vonnegut seeks to entertain us, his rhetoric present only under jocularly sardonic remarks and plot.

-Sebastian R., 10th grade

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